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easiest way to create retro 16-bit style music?


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#1 hughdesmond2006   Members   -  Reputation: 133

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 01:14 PM

I have ableton but i do believe there is commonly used software to create authentic retro style music like impulse tracker.

My goal is to make music that sounds like these, not as far back as 8-bit chip tune, but just that nice middle area like the sonic era:

metal slug theme:

a project similar to mine:

I am under alot of pressure for time so dont want to spend a lot of time learning how to use software to make something like this, is there any more user friendly alternate to something like impulse tracker?

Is it relatively easy to make a simple 16-bit sounding (?!) track in impulse tracker?

perhaps there is a nice downloadable synth for ableton i could use?

also note i must make the theme for commercial use so i need mostly royalty free samples/instruments!

Thanks in advance,
Hugh.

Sponsor:

#2 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1836

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 03:43 PM

Depends which approach you want to take.
  • If you just want to use Impulse Tracker, get some set of instruments that sounds similar. There isn't much else to it.
  • You could also try using a program that supports VOPM. Get ready to learn how to make FM instruments though.
  • If you want to go to the extreme, there's DefleMask, but expect dealing with the real hardware limitations which won't be very fun if you just want to make music. In this case you also have to learn how to make FM instruments.
Does this help?

EDIT: should have paid more attention and checked the videos first, it seems like you're going more towards SNES-like sounds than FM-like sounds (that you mentioned Sonic and a Neo Geo game didn't help). In that case yeah, all that matters is pretty much the instruments and the style (mainly genre) of the music, not much else. Actually trackers like Impulse Tracker are pretty good at that kind of stuff.

EDIT 2: I should reread more carefully, you want something that is not like Impulse Tracker. Well, pretty much anything that lets you use your own instruments and is score-based (e.g. tracker, MIDI, etc.) rather than waveform based (e.g. Audacity, etc.). Really it's more of a thing of the instruments and the melody itself than anything else.

Edited by Sik_the_hedgehog, 20 November 2012 - 03:50 PM.

Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.

#3 bschmidt1962   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1879

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 06:25 PM

Is it relatively easy to make a simple 16-bit sounding (?!) track in impulse tracker?


Its not the synth, it's the samples. SNES-style music was characterized by extremely small wavetable samples. An entire orchestra for a song (say 6-10 instruments) had to fit in the equivalent of less than 200k bytes. Yes "kilobytes" (not megabytes or gigabytes).
So instrument samples barely played their attack, and then went right into a very short loop, and were usually sampled at between 11kHz and 24kHz.

On the bright side then, any wavetable synth that lets you create and use your own samples can get pretty close to that SNES sound.
On the down side, you have to create those samples yourself (East West doesn't have these kind of sample libraries :)), though there may be some actual trackers that have instrument samples. Those of us who did a lot of SNES work spent literally hundreds of hours creating libraries of wavetable instruments with tiny loops.

There are a few other things to get the "SNES" sound, which have been covered in other threads if you look..

Good luck! it's kind of a lost art..

Brian Schmidt
Executive Director, GameSoundCon
President, Game Audio Network Guild

Brian Schmidt

Executive Director, GameSoundCon:

GameSoundCon 2014:October 7-8, Los Angeles, CA

 

Founder, EarGames

Founder, Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC

Music Composition & Sound Design

Audio Technology Consultant


#4 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1836

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 10:21 PM

SNES-style music was characterized by extremely small wavetable samples. An entire orchestra for a song (say 6-10 instruments) had to fit in the equivalent of less than 200k bytes. Yes "kilobytes" (not megabytes or gigabytes).

Correction, all the music data (the stream, the samples, etc. - also the driver and the data for the sound effects) had to fit in 64KB. Yes, all of it. The SPC700 couldn't read from the cartridge directly, it had to rely on the 65816 passing data to it, and what's worse, the only way this could be done is through four byte-sized communication ports which have to be polled, so streaming usually wasn't an option either. So it's much worse than what you say =P On the upside, it had envelopes, which could be used to make short samples feel much longer (have a short loop but a longer envelope).

Then again, the music in those two videos he showed don't have that limitation at all, so that really isn't what he's looking for. Honestly it seems like he's just going for the music style and nothing else.
Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.

#5 hughdesmond2006   Members   -  Reputation: 133

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Posted 22 November 2012 - 07:39 AM

Ok, so you have provided me with a bit of clarity in terms of what i am looking for. I guess the software in which i assemble the music only matters so much as to how simple and intuitive it is to use, i was just saying that impulse tracker looks dated and unintuative compared with modern composing software. I suppose i could use ableton as long as i have the right sounding instruments.

The more important issue is trying to find sounds, samples and instruments which sound like the videos a posted above. I believe the sound is characterized by a sort of cheesiness in the sound of the synths which try to sound like peices of an orchestra, sometimes mixed with some more electronic sounds. Think old zelda games? i want this cheesiness because i think its gives the music more charm.

Maybe some of these software packages like impulse tracker have decent default libraries to work with, i dont mind, i would be happy to work with a limited set of sounds as long as i can do it on the cheap! Are there not a selection of sounds that are simply freeware at this stage due to how common they are in those types of games, like theres only so many variations of a cheesy string instrument you will hear in the music for these games!

I am trying my best to convey what i want, but i am somewhat limited by my musical knowledge, i am good at putting sounds and instruments together but when it comes to the technical details of those sounds i genuinely dont have a clue!

#6 bschmidt1962   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1879

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Posted 22 November 2012 - 10:42 AM

Correction, all the music data (the stream, the samples, etc. - also the driver and the data for the sound effects) had to fit in 64KB. Yes, all of it.

Yes, the SNES memory was 64k, but the samples were ADPCM compressed around 3.5:1. That's what I said "had to fit in the equivalent of around 200k bytes" since if you were trying to emulate, you'd use straight uncompressed PCM samples. Plus you had to leave room for the OS itself, SFX, etc...I figured that was easier than the (more thorough) explanation :)..

Brian Schmidt

Executive Director, GameSoundCon:

GameSoundCon 2014:October 7-8, Los Angeles, CA

 

Founder, EarGames

Founder, Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC

Music Composition & Sound Design

Audio Technology Consultant


#7 hughdesmond2006   Members   -  Reputation: 133

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 10:31 AM

after some more research it looks like using sound fonts is the way to go!

for example here: http://woolyss.com/chipmusic-soundfonts.php#soundfonts

#8 Kryzon   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 3314

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 07:09 PM

@hughdesmond2006: IIRC some composers in that era would sample patches directly from their synthesizer keyboards (compressing and doing the proper conversions to fit in the cartridge memory of course).

So another possible source for you is looking for vintage synth-keyboard and sound-module samples. Vintage drum-machines too, will give you those nostalgic noisy, punchy sounds. Most notable 'old' sounds, in my opinion, come from brass, strings and drum samples.

Further Info:

- Degrading sound effects to get a lo-fi, old quality (useful to process your instrument samples with this, so your arrangements can sound like "old school".)

- http://www.digitalso...om/emu_products (collection of sound-fonts from vintage sources.)

- Great suggestion on "scavenging" vintage samples from MOD tracks (i.e: heard a sample you liked in a module file? open it with Impulse T. and export the patch as WAV)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcbNpx8dyMI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zoc2jugdvQ

Edited by Kryzon, 26 November 2012 - 08:44 PM.


#9 SuperVGA   Members   -  Reputation: 1118

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 12:36 PM

Try http://www.milkytracker.org/
It's an open source tracker inspired by Fasttracker 2, and it works really well in my opinion.
I use both basic waveforms and imported samples, but i never thought of using degraded samples like Kryzon mentioned! I'm going to try that! :)

(You could use Fruityloops to achieve the same results. It seems very easy to use, and looks very slick.
Only thing about that is that it's so ... horizontal. -How can you put up with that if you're used to classic trackers?)

#10 Sik_the_hedgehog   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1836

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:49 PM

Only thing about that is that it's so ... horizontal. -How can you put up with that if you're used to classic trackers?

In my experience this seems to depend completely on the musician. Some can only work with pentagrams, some can only work with piano rolls, some can only work with trackers, some just outright slap together waveforms in a sample editor.
Don't pay much attention to "the hedgehog" in my nick, it's just because "Sik" was already taken =/ By the way, Sik is pronounced like seek, not like sick.




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